Social icons


Roll back six weeks to late January and I was full of verve for quitting sugar and becoming healthier. I was also a little high on that delightfully smug feeling garnered from the knowledge that my food intake was about to become more wholesome than that of the people around me. I was convinced I'd soon be shedding unwanted Christmas pounds effortlessly. I'd signed up for the I Quit Sugar 8 week program and guess what? I failed miserably at it. 

The failure started when I didn't prepare properly. I dutifully printed the meal plan, stocked my pantry with the ingredients on the first weekly shopping list but failed to do anything with them. I did not make the gluten free buckwheat loaf for the first Sunday cook up as suggested. I did make a chia pudding but as usual I ate most of it before it could swell up because I raid the fridge impulsively between 9pm and 11pm most nights, without fail and I love the sweet creamy taste of coconut milk and vanilla. So, not exactly a great start. 

The first week continued in this vein of picking and choosing what I wanted to follow on the meal plan substituting this for that and not drinking the lemon and water as instructed, rather opting for the free lattes over at Waitrose, but I was sugar free. The headaches, nausea and dizziness were excruciating. I can't find another way to say it, I was in pain. It was not enjoyable and it didn't end for me until well into week two. I suspect this is because in my normal routine I eat a lot of refined sugar. Even though in general I eat healthily I have a ludicrously sweet tooth, which when coupled with a great metabolism has meant I can eat packets of biscuits, cakes, chocolate bars and ice-cream daily without any noticeable adverse health effects in the short or long term. So you're probably wondering why do I want to change? Well, last autumn I noticed I was experiencing mood swings, sometimes I would snap at Bella & Bear for no plausible reason and I wasn't sleeping well. I was also constantly looking in the cupboards for something to nibble when I was bored. All quite normal behaviours for a single mum, nothing to worry about right? Then I noticed that my children were mirroring my behaviour. They'd come home from school tired, have a sweet snack that didn't fill them up and then bicker, fight and constantly request more snacks until supper time. There was also the fact that all three of us kept getting sick. First with colds and sore throats, then coughs and chest infections that we couldn't shift for months. Bella kept complaining of headaches and tummy upsets. Bear would have a temperature but still be bouncing off the walls. In December alone they had about a week off school each due to illness. It took me a long time to accept why we were all behaving the same way and experiencing the same symptoms, we were eating way too much sugar and our food was not nutrient dense. 

The reason it took me a long time to reach this conclusion is because I cook with whole foods and fresh vegetables at least five evenings a week for my family. A typical week of evening meals for us would include bangers and mash, spaghetti bolognese, cottage or shepherd's pie and a roast dinner on Sunday. We'd also have a pizza night and a left overs night. I serve two types of veg with most meals often broccoli and carrots. Most meals are followed by a pudding of ice-cream and chocolate sauce for the children and a yoghurt or piece of fruit for me. Reasonably healthy right? The trouble is all of these meals contain either large quantities of refined carbohydrates (which our bodies convert into sugar) or large quantities of added unseen sugar (just read the back of that Dolmio jar). So my main reason for starting the 8 week program was to learn new sugar free recipes and reduce our overall sugar consumption. 

I stopped buying chocolate biscuits and by week two things were settling down. I felt more balanced mentally, better able to concentrate on projects, I was sleeping better, really enjoying the meals I was trying and Bella & Bear were not nearly so hyperactive or disagreeable after school. Then at the end of the second week was Bella's 7th birthday party. I made two types of cupcakes, her favourite peppermint bark, marshmallows and bought typical kids party fodder. I did well initially holding back throughout the party until I caved, devouring what shall be known as 'the gateway cupcake' in less than a minute. It began with a slight lick of a finger covered in homemade frosting and culminated a week later in my eating an entire bar of Green & Black's cooking chocolate while watching Revenge. It was an epic fail.

Since then I've been teetering on the edge of trying again or accepting defeat. The thing about failing spectacularly like this is that you can't fudge your way around it. It wasn't a little slip up I made, it was a full on face plant and I've found it hard to admit to myself why I failed. It wasn't that I was weak willed. It's that I was arrogant. I thought I could sale through a difficult life style change without sufficient preparation or a backup plan. Now I've taken some time and accepted my short comings I take a very different view, I am humbled by the strength of character it takes to make continuing efforts toward a life altering goal. I'm going to try to quit sugar again because failure is only complete when we give up on our goals and while I may have lost sight of mine for a few sugar-soaked weeks they remain constant. 

So I'm six weeks behind, starting the program again from scratch but I'm resolute and the first thing I've done this time round is to make that buckwheat loaf. I'll keep you posted on how I'm doing.

That time I failed to quit sugar

Roll back six weeks to late January and I was full of verve for quitting sugar and becoming healthier. I was also a little high on tha...
Tuesday, 3 March 2015
Wishing you all a belated but heartfelt Happy New Year for 2015!

We've had a wonderful Christmas and New Year which we split between Devon and London because that's what we like to do. Spending the holidays with Bella & Bear meant the world to me. It's painful to confront how I felt spending Christmas without them (as I did in 2013) compared to the joy of the festive period just passed, particularly when I know that come Christmas 2015 I will have to suck it up when they go to their Dad's again... but it is still twelve months away so I intend to make hay while the sun shines. 

With this in mind it's time to share my resolution. Initially it was my intention to buy new lingerie every month and end the year with a drawer full of gorgeous undies (and potentially a new boyfriend because I'm thinking about dating again), but as I tend to make only one resolution a year making it about knickers seems a mite frivolous. 

For 2014 I resolved to cook a proper Sunday roast for my family every week and barring a few epic fails (like the time I forgot to defrost the chicken, or the time I danced the night away, drank too much wine and couldn't face standing up until 4pm the next day) it was one of the most successful new year resolutions I've ever made. I've considered why it's been so successful and have put it down to the fact that it wasn't about improving myself or changing who I am, it was about bringing our family together. It was about being happy together in our own little world.

Frankly it's a tough one to beat. So this year my resolution is to keep on keeping on. By that I mean I will keep doing the simple things that bring me and those around me joy. I'm going to continue to bring my family together but not just over food on a Sunday, I'm going to place an emphasis on time. I'm going to give my time consistently; we'll talk, play, read, walk and just BE together because to paraphrase Gene Simmons, these are my people.

So there you have it. This year will be about family, togetherness... and ok my fabulous new frilly knickers.

Wait up 2015!!

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Hard to believe that Christmas is a day away and 2015 is just around the corner. Where have you gone to 2014? If you're anything like me you'll be jonesing for stuffed turkey, roast potatoes with all the trimmings and two helpings of pudding (that's dessert for my American readers). Obviously figgy, or Christmas pudding will be on the menu accompanied by brandy butter, ice-cream and double cream (if you're my Dad) or maybe just a simple vanilla custard; however you lace yours it's a rich once a year treat with an uncanny soporific effect that usually has me pinned to a sofa for several hours after consumption. But... there's always one refusenik who will be joining in with the raucous sing-song delivery of 'now bring us some figgy pudding' not out of a genuine desire to eat facefuls of brandy soaked fruit but so they won't be outed as the Christmas pudding grinch. Yes, strange as it may be there are people out there who do not like Christmas pudding. So, to paraphrase Marie Antoinette 'let them eat crumble'.

Making a large crumble is a great idea if you like eating up cold, slightly soggy crumble the next day (which I admit I do), but if you prefer yours piping hot and slightly chrunchy I suggest you make mini-crumbles in ramekins. Not only will it cut down on waste but you can serve them fresh for Boxing day lunch having prepared them the day before. Plus they are so simple to make it seems a shame not to really. It is Christmas after all.

You will need:
120g plain flour
60g unsalted butter cubed (at room temp)
60g castor sugar
Peeled fruit & berries (I used apples and blackberries)

Preheat the oven to 190ÂșC

Put the flour, butter and sugar in a bowl and work it together with your fingers until it combines to form a mixture that will stick together in a ball if you squeeze it in your hand, but will fall apart (or crumble) if you rub it between your fingers.

Peel the fruit and chop it into bite sized pieces. Add the fruit and berries to the ramekins and top with crumble. Bake in the oven until the crumble is golden brown, approximately 20 minutes. Allow to cool slightly before serving to avoid scalds from hot fruit juice.

If you're preparing this for children choose sweeter eating apples rather than cooking apples, this is to avoid adding extra sugar to the fruit in order to appeal to a child's palette... because that's what they need after a morning eating chocolate, even more sugar.


Tuesday, 23 December 2014
Skirt by River Island
Clutch by Reiss
Watch by Bell & Ross

Black Friday seems to have come around very fast this year, at least it seems that way to me. So I thought it only right to feature an all black outfit post because although we all wear black head-to-toe from time to time it's not something I do very often. I'm a big fan of colour as you know, but I can't deny the allure of this comforting, timeless colour especially in winter when it's important for clothes to feel substantial and warm. 

When I wear head-to-toe anything I like to play around with texture within the outfit and that's exactly what I've done here by pairing a leather look midi-skirt from River Island with an embellished luxe sweater by Jeff (a very cool Belgian label that specialises in knitwear, it's available at Feather & Stitch with 20% off while stock lasts). The sparkle on the (oh so soft) sweater plays down any potential grunge vibes in the skirt while the leather look prevents the sweater appearing too cute. The metallic bag mirrors the embellished details and ties the look together.

A quick note on the Billi Bi boots... these are my favourite buy of the season. Incredibly comfy, perfect heel height, fantastic soft leather, they look just like Acne Pistol boots but are a fraction of the cost. They're available in grey (here) too.

Hoorah & Happy Holidays x

Black Out

Saturday, 29 November 2014

It's not really very British to reveal to people how thankful you are for everything you have. It could be perceived as boasting or showing off and both are behaviours generally frowned upon in society. We're just a little too self-deprecating as a nation to embrace this heartfelt American holiday of thanks and cheer. Now this isn't to say that I believe we're not extremely thankful for all that we have on this side of the pond. On the contrary, it's just that I've observed we're much better at finding and elucidating on the silver linings in our lives rather than displaying a genuine gratitude towards personal good fortune. However, I loved Thanksgiving in my short time on American soil so I'm going to buck the British trend in writing. Please don't ask me to say any of this out loud though as I will be forced to laugh uncomfortably and then shuffle away muttering.

10 Reasons to be Thankful

1) My family & friends - they're bonkers and I love them.
2) Good health - a cancer scare earlier in the year turned out to be nothing to worry about. Phew.
3) Low interest rates.

So far so normal...

4) Better boobs - I gained weight and my boobs became larger and firmer. Result!
5) Sharing - once upon a time someone invented gin, someone else decided to put sugar and sloes into the gin. Then they shared the idea.
6) Bella & Bear sometimes sleep past 8am at the weekend. Shhhhhh.
7) I didn't buy the puppy.
8) Cool bedsheets, hot water bottles and frosty mornings.

Bit weird but hey...

8) The zombie apocalypse hasn't happened.
9) No one farts in my bed (except me), it's a perk of being single.
10) Pomegranates.

Most of all I'm thankful that I'm content with my life just as it is. It may be a small thing but it's been a long time coming. Woah. That last one came out of nowhere!

10 Reasons to be Thankful

Friday, 28 November 2014
We hear so much about layering at this time of year and for some reason there's an air of mystery that surrounds the layering of clothes, or at least how to do it well. So, I thought I would dispel the mystery and impart a few very simple tips that will have you marching down the street like the fashion maven you are, rather than a Michelin man style silhouette that can result from a lumpy jumper and large coat combo (although funnily enough I happen to love that particular combination, especially around horses).

Opt for thin, fitted under garments
Your mum made you wear a vest, right? You make your kids wear a vest, right? So what's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. Follow your own (and your mother's) excellent advice. Choose a beautiful camisole or other fitted top that sits snugly against your figure. This will not add weight to your outfit, in fact if you choose the uber-fitted spandex variety you will define your shape.

Add a basic, lightweight top 
Something plain, neutral or striped works best; stripes are particularly effective if you plan to roll up the sleeves on the next layer and have the striped cuff peeking out.

Cover up with a shirt or lightweight cardi
If you've gone patterned on the previous layer go plain on this layer (and vice versa) unless combining plaid and stripes which frankly look awesome together. A half turned up collar will add style points and nonchalance. Don't tuck this layer into your bottom layer, it adds movement and form to the look when left free.

A note on sweaters
If it's seriously butt clenching cold outside add a plain, neutral, or navy (which is the new neutral) sweater over the top of all the other layers. You will now BOIL on the tube or in any building you enter. Remove as required.

Add a coat
Coats finish an outfit, after November it's thoughtless to leave the house without one and people will suspect you've been at the gin if you can't feel the cold, so there you are. By the way if you haven't read it yet, check out 'Hurrah for Gin', it's rather darn funny.

Winter accessories are wonderful, scarfs, hats and gloves are like ribbons, bows and tags on Christmas presents, they adorn and improve the existing look. This season the modern way to wear a scarf is to belt it at the waist, this works brilliantly with the oversized blanket scarfs that are popping up everywhere as it has the effect of turning them into makeshift ponchos. Keep jewelry to a minimum to avoid looking overdone.

Mix it up
Play around with different lengths within the layers and choose contrasting fabrics to add interest and texture. There are no colour rules, but you might want to avoid the mix of a green and red top with brown bottoms unless you are in actual fact an elf.

Really the best way to get an idea of what works for you is to play dress-up with the clothes you have. If you get stuck it will be because you're missing a key item in your wardrobe in which case Christmas is coming so you could put it on your wish list. Happy days.

I do a little de-layered strip-tease below.

Coat by Reiss
Scarf by Gap (instore only, find similar here)
Dress by Cos (sold out)
Boots by Billi Bi at Feather & Stitch (20% off until Friday)
Belt from a selection at Feather & Stitch
Bag by Mulberry
Watch by Bell & Ross
Sunglasses by RayBan
Jewelry (vintage)

Yeah, that's it. I'm not taking anything else off.

Layering in Winter

Wednesday, 26 November 2014
©Bella & Bear 2013, 2014. Powered by Blogger.